There’s only a one in 20 chance of car thieves being caught by the police.
That is the shocking revelation from a new report that has found that just 6 per cent of cases of vehicle crime over the last four years has resulted in a conviction.
It means car theft victims are very unlikely to see their pinched motor again as criminals appear to be successfully outfoxing enforcement after using new tactics, including stealing motors via their keyless systems and stripping vehicles of their parts at the roadside.
With these types of vehicle crime on the rise, they are also contributing to the recent spike in motor premiums.
Had your car stolen or stripped of parts by thieves? Fury for victims as new police data shows hardly any criminals are caught and convicted
The new data has been uncovered by dash cam manufacturer, Nextbase, which claims that ‘a new generation of criminals are outwitting current vehicle protections’ and then getting away with it because police are unable to track them down.
Figures attained from 39 UK forces via a freedom of information request showed that between 2019 and 2022 just 6.7 per cent of 396,000 reported car crimes resulted in someone being charged.
The near-400,000 crimes include motor thefts, items being pinched from inside cars and ‘interference’ with a vehicle, which includes victims of ‘car cannibals’ who are stripping motors of their parts at the roadside to sell for spares.
Incredibly, the investigation found that in more than two thirds (69 per cent) of cases reported to the police, officers were unable to identify a suspect.
In 69% of the near 400,000 vehicle crime cases investigated by police between 2019 and 2022, not a single suspect is identified by officers, the shocking new report has found
How criminals steal cars using relay tactic
Criminals usually go in pairs to steal keyless cars. One holds a transmitter and stands next to the vehicle while the other stands close to the house holding an amplifier
To target new – and often high-end – motors, thieves are arming themselves with cheap technology that allows them to take cars without having to step foot into someone’s property to take the keys.
Keyless entry and keyless ignition means a driver only needs to have the car’s key on their body – in their pocket for instance – not only to unlock the doors but to start the engine.
While this is a convenience feature, it is also one that leaves owners susceptible to car crime.
Usually two thieves will work together when planning to pinch a car with keyless tech. One holds a transmitter and stands next to the car while the other stands close to the house holding an amplifier.
The amplifier can boost the signal from the key inside the property and send it to the transmitter.
The transmitter essentially becomes a ghost key and tricks the car into thinking the real key is nearby. This then opens the car and allows it to be driven away without causing any damage.
Insurers have estimated that around half of all car thefts are currently conducted in this way because criminals can do it quickly and in near silence, with gangs usually targeting vehicles in the middle of the night without raising suspicion.
The recent rise in vehicle thefts using relay attacks on keyless cars, as well as the failure to track down stolen motors and components, is thought to be partly driving the record rise in insurance premiums.
Rising costs for replacement parts and lack of availability is also one of the causes of skyrocketed motor cover, insurers have said.
The Association of British Insurers said in August that cover providers have seen claim payouts rise by around 15 per cent to £2.4billion per quarter, which includes thefts, car repairs and personal injury.
However, a cross-section of Britain’s drivers polled in a survey said they could do more to protect their vehicles from thieves.
A survey of 2,000 UK motorists found that half (51 per cent) rely only on an easily-disabled car alarm while just 16 per cent have a steering lock.
Six per cent of the panel said they take no protective measures whatsoever.
Vehicle hacking expert Dr Ken Tindell, chief technology officer at automotive security software company Canis Automotive Labs, says a simple car alarm no longer suffices to stop today’s thieves using sophisticated tactics.
‘The image many people have of car thieves breaking windows and hot-wiring cars is totally out of date,’ he warns.
‘With the latest theft techniques the criminal can relay the wireless messages from the driver’s key fob all the way to the car – telling it to unlock itself and deactivate its immobilizer.
‘Or they clone a key fob to tell the car that the thief is the legitimate driver.
‘These techniques can let the thief drive away in seconds, without raising any alarm, before a car owner would have any idea what was going on.’
Bryn Brooker, head of road safety at Nextbase, added: ‘Today’s car thieves are brazen and you can see why: Tottenham have better odds of winning the Premier League [14/1 according to Betfair on 4 October] than they do of being caught.
‘Despite their best efforts, police can’t solve many of these cases because in the vast majority of incidents there is simply no video evidence, making prosecution impossible.
‘The increasing sophistication of criminals and years of underfunding makes their job incredibly difficult. This led to there being no suspect identified in over two thirds of cases.’
Nextbase says dash cams that trigger a warning notification to an owner’s smartphone if it detects someone tampering with their vehicle could soon ‘make stealing a car unviable’
Can dash cams really cut car crime?
Surprise, surprise, a dash cam manufacturer says one of the best ways to protect your car from thieves is using one of its devices.
However, there is already the suggestion that domestic surveillance cameras are helping to cut down on some forms of vehicle crime.
The lengths drivers take to protect their cars from thieves
Car alarm: 51%
I always park where I can see my car: 25%
I keep my key fob far away from any windows or doors to stop it being cloned: 23%
Dash cam: 17%
Steering wheel lock: 16%
I do not take any measures to keep my car safe: 6%
Source: poll of 2,000 UK drivers by Nextbase
A report earlier this year said that the rise in popularity of video doorbells may be driving a dramatic decline in the number of cases of drivers fleeing the scene of a crime.
This generally occurs when motorists involved in collisions make off before police and emergency services arrive at the scene.
But cases also include minor incidents, such as small prangs and clipping wing mirrors, that often cost victims money to repair if the perpetrator fails to leave their details.
And this is believed to be a result of the rise in people having smart doorbells installed at their homes, dash cams in cars and helmet cameras used by cyclists and motorbike riders.
Stats from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency show that cases of this offence fell by a third between 2021 and 2022.
There has been a recent jump in cases of car cannibals striking. These thieves strip parts of parked vehicles at the roadside and in car parks to sell for spares
Nextbase says its latest devices can help protect drivers from all these different types of crime as they record not only when a vehicle is on the move.
This will particularly help to curb the rise in car cannibalism reported in recent months.
This type of crime is becoming increasing prevalent, with 5 per cent of respondents saying they had experienced theft of a car part in the last two years.
The study found that Londoners are most at risk and twice as likely (10 per cent) to have had a part stolen off their car than the wider country while East Anglia is the safest area, where just 1 per cent of drivers reporting having a component stripped from their vehicle.
Nextbase’s new iQ range of ‘smart’ dash cams should help tackle this.
Like a video doorbell, they send a notification to an owner’s smartphone if someone tries to break in, bumps your car while it’s parked or tries to strip it of parts at the roadside.
Footage taken is immediately backed up online to provide a record of who gets into the vehicle or near it, providing a view both inside and outside the car and to help track its location if it is stolen.
‘This is the first time this kind of technology has made it to dash cams, allowing anybody to protect their vehicle with the kind of security homes have recently gained,’ Brooker says.
‘Eventually this kind of technology will make stealing a car unviable.
‘For now, it will help police track down more of these criminals and stop these thefts from happening in the first place.’
Five security tips to protect your car from thieves using hi-tech tactics
1. Keep your key fob well away from your vehicle – and store it in a Faraday wallet
To best protect against keyless car theft, always place the keyfob as far away from the vehicle as you can and store it in a location that is not close to doors or windows in your property.
Halfords sells faraday pouches for £5
Even keeping them upstairs or in a room that’s the furthest distance from your driveway will not guarantee that a criminal using relay tactics won’t be able to infiltrate the signal.
For the best level of protection, owners of cars with keyless tech should purchase a Faraday pouch or wallet.
You can buy these online for as little as £5. They isolate the key fob’s signal so it can’t be replicated by thieves.
Metal tins and boxes will also provide similar protective levels, as will keeping your key fob in a fridge freezer, microwave or oven – just remember they are in there before turning on the latter two.
Also, don’t forget about your spare keys and apply the same level of care you would to your main keys or fob.
Keeping your keyless fob in a tin will block the signal and prevent thieves from duplicating it to break into your vehicle
2. Invest in extra anti-theft protection
A simple steering wheel lock or wheel clamp might look ugly but are a great tool to deter even the hardiest criminals with the most tech.
They will act as a visual deterrent for thieves who will likely avoid them.
For a criminal to remove a steering wheel lock typically requires the use of noisy drills or saws to cut through, and therefore they are the ideal first line of defence for owners with models that have keyless car tech.
Drivers should also consider wheel clamps as well as having alarm systems and trackers (read more about these below) installed.
Owners of vans with keyless technology should also consider fitting deadbolts for additional protection, especially if they store expensive tools and items in their commercial vehicles overnight.
3. Be mindful when locking the doors
It may sound simple but always make sure your vehicle is locked every time you leave it – especially in busy car parks where thieves often use signal blockers.
Many drivers also don’t realise that on some vehicle models if you press your key fob only once your car will only be single locked.
This means that if you smashed the window you could manually open the car by reaching in and pulling the handle from the inside.
To double lock, key fobs can require a second press of the locking button to engage the full security features. It is important to read your car’s manual when you first get it and familiarise how to securely lock your car when you’re not in it.
4. Think carefully about where you park overnight
Most often, keyless car thefts take place on owners’ driveways. While motorists might think having their vehicle in such close proximity to their property guarantees its security, this is certainly not the case when it comes to relay thefts – quite the contrary, in fact, as it means the car is closer to where they keys are inside your home.
That’s why owners with off-street parking should consider additional measures.
Driveway parking posts are a cheap but efficient way of deterring would-be thieves.
Drivers can also go one step further and install lockable gates in their driveway, while simple CCTV systems can provide further peace of mind.
Luxury cars, which are at greater risk of theft, should be parked in a locked garage where possible.
For those without off-street parking who leave their cars on the road outside their home, you are also not safe from these criminals.
Consider parking further away from your property than usual – and try to find a space under a streetlight so that thieves are exposed when trying to steal your car at night.
If you live on a residential street where there are also business, park outside one with a CCTV camera installed.
5. Install a tracking device in your car
Installing a tracker system in your vehicle, such as a Thatcham approved device, offers an extra layer of security.
A tracking device won’t stop your vehicle being stolen, but it significantly increases the chances of the police recovering and returning it to you.
They cost from between £250 and £800 and the most secure use military-grade tech to locate the whereabouts of cars.
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